With a still-new Lead Worshipper role in my life, things are pretty hectic. I freely acknowledge that I am still very green to all of this, and balancing worship ministry with my other responsibilities (student ministry, college ministry) is still tricky. But God is faithful and patient with me as I learn. More than the mechanics of creating a flowing worship experience, right now I am dealing with myself. It seems to be the only true place to start. You have to start with the leader.
Whether it’s as a vocalist, musician, sound/lights engineer, or media tech, worship isn’t really about an opportunity to use our gifts and talents. It’s more than a heightened emotional experience where just the right amount of song and lighting comes together with stirring video. It’s more than what we do on Sunday morning.
Worship is about what we love. What we live for.
It’s about who we are before God.
Before I jump into a discussion about the practical elements of leading worship, I have to start with the things we love. We have to start with the way we think and live. I have to begin by challenging, encouraging, and inspiring our body to live for the glory of Jesus.
No holding back.
It’s the only kind of life that makes sense for us. And especially for those of us leading worship. It’s the thing that really matters (not style or song selection or even our abilities..). It matters because God is the reason for which we were created and the reason we sing, play, clap, and show videos. So it’s important to think carefully about what we do and why we do it.
What’s the greatest challenge you face as a worshipper or as a leader? Deciding on songs? Practicing? Getting along with others in the band? Negative feedback from church members? Nope. I believe that the greatest obstacle is what I bring to the stage week after week after week: my heart.
Each of us has a battle raging within us over what we love most–God or something else. Whenever we love or serve anything other than God, we commit idolatry. We love our idols because we think they will provide the joy for us that comes from God alone. We think having them will truly satisfy us and give us what we want.
Of course, we’re wrong. Idols enslave us and put us to shame (Isaiah 45:16; Psalm 106:36). 1 John 5:21 warns us to ‘keep yourselves from idols’. Even as disciples, we battle deeply-rooted sin patterns that we’ve learned over the years–so deeply rooted, in fact, that we can hardly recognize them in ourselves. It’s much easier (and much more painful) for others to recognize them and point them out in us.
Matthew 22:37 says “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” While it’s trite to say that worship is love, it’s a fact that what we love will determine what we worship. In fact, we become what we worship. We become whatever we worship.
God wants us to love Him more than my new guitar. More than our music. He wants us to love Him more than we love singing for Him.
More than our possessions.
More than food.
More than ministry.
More than our family.
More than our own lives.
That doesn’t mean we can’t love anything else. But it does mean that we can’t rightly love anything else until we rightly love Him. Our desires will be out of whack. We will love the wrong things too much and Him too little.
How do you know what you worship? How do you know what you really love? Ask yourself these questions:
What do I enjoy most? What do I spend the most time doing? Where does my mind drift to when I don’t have anything to do? What am I passionate about? What do I spend my money on? What makes me angry when I don’t get it? What do I feel depressed without? What do I fear losing the most?
The answers to those questions will lead us to our idols we worship. So it’s not a matter of ‘will you worship?’, but one of ‘what are you worshipping?’
That’s why as worship leaders our primary concern can’t be song preparation, or creativity, or cool gear. Our primary concern has to be the state of our hearts.
It’s a matter of infinite importance to God. And when it becomes infinitely important to us, we’re beginning to grasp the heart of what it means to lead worship.
Remember, God isn’t looking for something brilliant. He’s looking for something broken. (Ps. 51:17)